Midweek Mumble – Are there too many films?
Rodney is back in the mumble chair, this week he asks are we overloaded with film in this modern age?
I want to pose a question to the readers of Front Room Cinema today. It might seem a bit counter-intuitive to ask, considering most of you reading this will be fans of cinema, but I was wondering the other day as to whether the film industry produces too many movies for the population to access.
Bear with me.
Hundreds, nay thousands of films are released each year, not only out of Hollywood but through European cinema as well, while the many thousands of Asian films – from Bollywood through to Korean output – blitz the market like a tidal-wave of entertainment waiting to wash over you. It’s easy for the marketing push on each major release to become so much white noise, a cacophony of indistinct explosions and gratuitous Oscar-bait rallying behind the slick, color-corrected, deep-voiced trailers that you just glaze over them to pick and choose the ones you think might be worth your time. You chose, you lose, you win and sometimes come out on top, but the fact remains that there’s no way in the world you’ll ever be able to watch all the films that come out the pipeline and still manage a life worth living. So are there simply too many films?
It’s often said that a room full of monkeys in a room full of typewriters – given enough time – will eventually bash out the works of Shakespeare (and, the wry modern response is that, thanks to the internet, we know that’s not true…) so it would follow that thousands of filmmakers around the world will eventually put out amazing works of cinematic fiction. Unfortunately, thanks to the rising dominance of high quality television, and the plethora of low-budget film-making now able to stand alongside major tent-pole releases for public attention, cinema has now become less about the quality and more about the quantity. Where major filmmakers such as David Fincher, Paul Thomas Anderson and even Tarantino have thrived, there are a hundred stories of failure just underneath them, a vast survival-of-the-fittest cast-off glut that litter the cinematic landscape.
Is our insatiable desire to see more films inherently causing the vast array of possibility we now have, and is it actually good for the industry and us? The fact that there’s such a large output of films would seem to indicate that the quality of those films, on average, should become less due to a shallower pool of creativity from which to dredge? After all, there’s only so many ideas going around. Sure, there’s remakes and sequels and projects which offer nothing unique and new to the format, but even taking that into account, the large amount of films (and now television programming) seem to struggle to give us anything new and exciting as often as they did in decades gone by. Quality writing has been replaced by sound-bites and clip-friendly dialogue, the new short-term attention span of modern audiences apparently making it harder and harder for studios to even get people in through the door without a snappy catch-phrase to go along with the movie. Only a few genuine auteurs remain, a few quality filmmakers still trying to buck the trend. Yet even they are lost in the sheer weight of numbers studio produced films present to audiences each year.
The question of whether there are too many films for us to watch gives rise to a couple of sub-questions to accompany it: how do you choose which films to watch and which films you’ll not worry about ever seeing if you don’t get the chance, and if you could, which film genre would you quite happily see the end of if it meant better quality films were to be released? Would you be adverse to seeing a reduction in cinematic output (not that it’ll ever happen, but one can fantasize) if it meant an increase in quality scripting, quality direction and more entertaining films? Less Battleship, more Avengers.
What do you think?